Lanzarote in Brief
Lanzarote is the most easterly island in the Canary Archipelago and in many ways, it’s unique. All the Canary Islands are volcanic in origin but on Lanzarote, the volcanic features are easily approachable and the most impressive. For example, if you visit The Timanfaya National Park you can literally ride in a coach to the top of a volcano that erupted only a few hundred years ago.
Travel out of the main tourist resorts and you’ll find lots of pretty villages, full of whitewashed houses surrounded by vines growing in sheltered hollows in the volcanic cinders.
Lanzarote receives more sunshine than any of the other Canary Islands with winter temperatures rarely dropping below 22 degrees Centigrade. Generally, rainfall is light and falls on less than 20 days a year.
The Canary Islands lie 300 km off the West African coast of Morocco but belong to Spain. There are six other Islands in the Canaries apart from Lanzarote. These are Tenerife, Gran Canaria, La Palma, Fuerteventura, La Gomera and El Hierro as well as numerous islets.
The artist, sculptor and environmentalist Cesar Manrique wielded enormous influence over the government of Lanzarote and was largely responsible for preserving Lanzarote’s natural state. Consequently, nearly two-thirds of Lanzarote is free of tourist establishments. Where development has taken place local traditions and customs have been respected. No building is taller than a Canary palm tree (with the exception of the Gran Hotel in Arrecife) and roadside hoardings are banned. Additionally, nearly all buildings are whitewashed and doors and windows are green inland and blue on the coast.
My First Lanzarote Holiday
I surprised myself on a week’s holiday in Lanzarote by how much of the Island I was actually able to see in 8 days. I’m definitely not one for sitting on a beach all day as I like to see as much of a place as possible.
Lanzarote is perfect for the explorer, it’s a relatively small island with an excellent road network and good public transport. I actually managed to visit 20 of the best places on the Island in a week’s holiday – this post describes how I did it day-by-day.
When I first visited Lanzarote I decided to try a package holiday, instead of booking flights and hotels separately. I got a flight from Leeds in the UK. This came with half board accommodation in one of the complexes in Puerto del Carmen at a very reasonable price.
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My perceptions of Spanish package holidays were soon dispelled. The buffet breakfast and buffet dinner (including wine and beer) in the hotel was surprisingly good. My apartment was roomy, had a sea view and was very comfortable, not that I spent much time in it. There was an assortment of English, German and Spanish food on offer every day at the buffet. Food-wise all I had to worry about every day was finding lunch. This was good as I had quite a busy schedule planned, I wanted to see as much of the Island as possible.
Getting around Lanzarote
If you are going to explore the Island you have two choices, hire a car or use public transport. Actually, I suppose there is a third option – use a bike, there seem to be lots of cyclists in Lanzarote. I presume you need to be fairly fit to cycle around the Island. Some of the hills on the roads look a bit extreme.
Car hire in Lanzarote is very reasonable. Driving around is a motorist’s dream, no traffic jams to speak of and amazing scenery everywhere. Fuel is slightly cheaper in Lanzarote than in the UK.
Public Transport in Lanzarote
Public buses can also be a good option for getting around Lanzarote. Considering the size of the Island there are a good number of buses and routes and fares are quite low. Buses in the Canary Islands are known as Guaguas (pronounced Wah-Wah). The public bus company on Lanzarote is called Intercity Bus (previously known as Arrecife Bus).
If you plan on using the bus a bit it’s worth buying a BBL (Bono Bus Lanzarote). This is a reusable, top-up card that costs 2 euros. You can buy the card on most buses, or in Arrecife at the main bus station. Whenever you use the Bono card you get a 10% discount. This is definitely worthwhile if you are planning to tour the island using public transport. You can check the card balance in the automated machines on the buses, or ask the driver once they have taken your fare from the card. The bus station in Arricife is situated on Via Medular and it’s called Estación de Guaguas.
The bus service has an app, which tracks buses in real-time, so you can find the route for your journey, see when the next bus is due, check the price of a ticket and check the balance of your Bono card.
Day 1 Puerto del Carmen
I had managed to get a trip with an early morning flight but of course, it is four hours flying time to Lanzarote so by the time I’d cleared the airport and checked into my apartment it was already mid-afternoon. So, first thing was to collect a hire car which I had already prebooked and then have an explore of the “strip” in Puerto del Carmen.
The promenade in Puerto del Carmen (Av. de las Playas) is very well maintained and it’s very pleasant to walk along. I went for a walk along it most evenings after dinner, a good way to walk off the buffet dinner in the complex. The promenade is several kilometres long extending all the way past the airport to Arrecife. The part through Puerto del Carmen has on one side the buzz of the bars and people out for the night. Across the road beaches and the sea. The beaches in Puerto del Carmen are very clean, they all have blue flags.
Shops open late in Lanzarote so you can always enjoy some shopping in the evening, some opening as late as 10 pm.
Day 2 Driving Tour of Northern Lanzarote
This was my first full day and I’d already planned out a full-day drive around the North of the Island. After an early breakfast and a trip to a bakery on the strip to buy a picnic lunch, I set off east and north to eventually pick up the LZ-1.
Jardin de Cactus
My first stop of the day was a short detour off the LZ-1 to visit the Jardin de Cactus possibly the world’s most unusual cactus garden. This is the last creation of Cesar Manrique and was built on the site of an old mill and mine. It’s an amazing setting with plenty of photo potential and some incredible cactus plants. The Jardin was very quiet and peaceful when I arrived at about 10 am. I left about 11:30 I think, by which time it was very busy.
Jameos del Agua
It’s hard to describe the Jameos del Agua, grotto doesn’t really do it justice, This somewhat magical place is home to albino crabs, water-filled caves and a sculpted pool. It’s located in the end section of the world’s longest lava tube. It also has a (pricey) restaurant which made me glad I’d brought my picnic lunch. This is a very popular place and busy, it’s definitely unique and quite unlike anywhere, I’ve ever been.
The northwest coast of Lanzarote has lots of white sand beaches and a wild coastline. You can walk down to the coastline from the Jameos del Agua where there is a rocky beach, just 10 minutes walk away. I had my lunch here watching the crashing waves and the antics of a trio of windsurfers. We were the only people there, absolutely amazing you can have such a place to yourself. There are lots of beaches north of here, many of which are often unoccupied.
Mirador del Rio
Today, however, I was heading in a different direction. Back in the car, I headed east across the volcanic landscape and then northwards on the LZ-201 to the Mirador del Rio. I had done my homework and read about this in the guidebook. However, this doesn’t really prepare you for this incredible building. I was still totally amazed by this place. Designed by Cesar Manrique, it is a lookout high on the cliffs with a restaurant with the most stunning views. As you enter you expect it to be full of film stars.
This is one place where you need to check the local weather as it can be cloudy sometimes. I was lucky I visited on a beautiful, clear, sunny day. I bought a coffee and sat by one of the panoramic windows and drank my coffee very slowly, trying to take in the view, it is truly amazing. You feel almost God-like looking down at the Island of La Graciosa and beyond. You can also walk outside onto the balcony. It’s quite exhilarating looking straight down 400 meters or so of the cliff to the beach at the bottom.
Reluctantly leaving the Mirador I continued south on the LZ-201 which is now dominated by the highest volcano on Lanzarote, Monte Corona (605 metres). As well as amazing views of the volcano, there are several places on the right-hand side of the road where you can park and enjoy pretty much the same view as that from the Mirador del Rio. Of course, these are free, no need to pay.
After passing through Maguez, I reached the very pretty, small town of Haria with its white houses and palm trees. Stopped here briefly for a wander, it’s a lovely place. Leaving Haria the road now climbs quite steeply with some hairpin bends to negotiate, pray you’re not following a coach. At the top, there is another viewpoint, the Mirador de Haria. I stopped here to admire the panoramic views of the town. It was late afternoon when I reached here and there were still a lot of coaches in the car park, so I guess it’s a busy place. The views are far-reaching and quite stunning, you can actually see right across to the Island’s east coast from here.
Now on the LZ-10, the road passes through another pretty village, Los Valles and then skirts around Teguise which I planned to visit later in the week. By the time I arrived back in Puerto del Carmen, I had travelled about 80 km. I’d seen some amazing volcanic scenery, visited three totally unique places and had a thoroughly great day out. I was definitely enjoying Lanzarote.
Day 3 El Golfo, Green Lagoon and Coastal Walk
I was definitely in the mood for a walk today after spending a lot of time driving yesterday. So I decided to drive over to El Golfo on the western side of the island and walk along the Ruta del Litoral to the secluded black sand beach at Playa del Paso. This route enters the Timanfaya National Park and runs up the coast over the lava field and close to the coastline. Once you get used to the black sand, the beach is quite stunning. It seems like a wild place with the ocean waves crashing onto it. It’s not a place to go swimming though as the currents are very strong. Apart from a couple of other people, I had the place to myself.
El Golfo and the Charco de Los Clicos
El Golfo is a small village that sits on a lava field right next to the sea. The black lava only formed relatively recently and provides the perfect contrast to the white houses and the deep blues of the ocean. It’s a very picturesque place and quite photogenic.
I arrived early in El Golfo (always a good idea) and managed to find a car parking space in the small car park next to the children’s playground. After a look around El Golfo, I set off on the walk to Playa del Paso described in my post here. It was early afternoon when I arrived back in El Golfo. I couldn’t believe the difference – this is definitely a very busy place, famous for its restaurants and popular with coach trips. I’d already had a light picnic lunch out on the lava field, but some of the menus looked really appetising, maybe another day! El Golfo does have a really good ice cream parlour, perfect if you’ve just had a long, hot walk.
Before leaving El Golfo I visited the famous Green Lagoon (Charco de Los Clicos). Although you can’t actually get onto the beach next to the lagoon the clifftop viewing platform gives excellent views of this most strange of attractions. Not only is the lagoon green, but it’s also surrounded by volcanic rocks of lots of different colours. You’ll feel familiar with the lagoon if you’ve been in Lanzarote for more than a couple of days, as it features on every postcard rack.
On the way back, I planned to visit the Mirador de las Salinas which is famous for its views of the saltpans. Along the way, I was distracted by a sign to Los Hervideros which turned out to be a place with walkways carved out of the cliff where you can watch the waves crashing into the small cove. It’s also, a good place to get wet! This is a very impressive site especially if you like watching waves.
From the car park, there is a short signposted walk to a black sand beach (Playa de Montana Bermeja). I walked here and was rewarded with the sight of Montana Bermeja itself. This orange and purple cone somehow seems out of place in the surrounding brown lava. This also features heavily on postcard racks.
Mirador de las Salinas / Yaiza
Back on the road, I found the Mirador de las Salinas which overlooks the saltpans, there is a restaurant nearby with picture windows that looked nice. I passed on the restaurant as I was keen to visit Yaiza on the return journey. Yaiza is one of Lanzarote’s best-kept and picturesque villages. I had timed this perfectly as the light was very good in the late afternoon and the village is very photogenic with its white houses, palm trees, quiet streets etc. So I enjoyed a wander around Yaiza and a bit of photography to end my day out.
Day 4 Arrecife, Lanzarote’s Capital
I decided to explore Arrecife the Island’s capital today. Pretty much everything that you’d want to see as a tourist is located along the seafront. Arrecife boasts a yellow sand beach, a marina, lots of cafes and restaurants, plenty of shops, historic buildings, Lanzarote’s only tall building, and my favourite bit an inland harbour the Charco de San Gines.
This is a large natural harbour full of small boats. Many of the small traditional fisherman’s houses surrounding the harbour have been renovated. In addition, a number of cafes and restaurants line the harbour and it’s been planted out with trees. These picturesque surroundings are a great place to spend an afternoon. My relaxing afternoon sat by the harbour with a coffee was interrupted by rain sadly. So it was an early return to Puerto del Carmen. Halfway through the week and a bit of time to plan out the rest of the holiday.
See the seafront walk around Arrecife for full details and a map of my walk.
Day 5 Timanfaya, Playa Blanca
I suppose most people who holiday in Lanzarote, visit the Timanfaya National Park. I had already seen some of the National Park on my walk up the coastline a couple of days ago. Because you aren’t allowed to wander around the National Park your visit around it is strictly controlled and you can only travel on the road inside the centre of the park on one of the park’s coaches.
Before you get to the park you pass a place where you can ride on a camel up the nearby volcano. I passed on this, it just looked too busy, lots of people waiting for their turn. I might have come back later in the day but I was keen to visit Playa Blanca later.
The road from Yaiza to Timanfaya is very spectacular as it passes through the lava fields and is very close to a number of volcanos. A couple of kilometres past the Timanfaya Park entrance there is an Information Centre. This is actually free to visit and you have a chance to see the Caldera Blanca Volcano from the Information Centre. Travel further up the road to Mancha Blanca and there is a trail to the top of the Volcano. This is on my list of things to do the next time I visit the Island. Note the Information Centre is not on the same site as the Visitor Centre and restaurant which you get to through the Park Entrance.
Timanfaya National Park
I returned to the Timanfaya National Park centre and joined a long queue of cars waiting to go in. Note coaches don’t seem to have to queue. After about 40 minutes I was allowed in. The place seems a bit touristy and you’ll have to share it with lots of other people. Maybe the camel riders had all arrived just before me! However, this is instantly forgotten when you see the scenery. It is otherworldly and very spectacular. There can’t be many places where you can get this close to recently erupted volcanoes. I did enjoy the coach trip around the park. Sadly though, you can’t get off the coach to take photos. There is a small area around the visitor centre where you can wander around and this seems to be where everyone takes a selfie, myself included!
Leaving Timanfaya I headed south to spend the afternoon in Playa Blanca. Finding your way around is quite easy. I parked close to the seafront and went for a wander. Playa Blanca is a very attractive resort and it has a long seafront area with several beaches. There is a well maintained and wide promenade running the length of the resort which makes it very pleasant to wander around. As well as the beaches there are bars and cafes, shops, a harbour and a marina. All of the architecture is quite tasteful and white of course, and there are plenty of palm trees.
Day 6 Playas de Papagayo
Many people come to Lanzarote for sunshine and beaches. So, today was designated a beach day. The only problem was which one, there are so many to choose from in Lanzarote. We decided to head south towards the Playas de Papagayo. These are not far from Costa Blanca, in fact, you can walk to them from the resort.
The scenic LZ-702 was our route today. Shortly before reaching Playa Blanca, there is a signposted road/track leading to Papagayo. This is a dirt road and must be driven along carefully, especially in a hire car. Because, this area is a nature reserve there are no cafes, shops or toilets. Note there is a fee for entering the reserve of 3 Euros, but then car parking is free.
There are a number of beaches here each set in its own cove. There are no amenities except a restaurant above Papagayo beach. So, if you plan to visit make sure you have everything that you need for the day – sunscreen, lunch, water, towel etc.
Papagayo was our beach of choice, just because it was nearest where we parked the car. We found a nice spot and spent the morning lazing around. I’m not really one for sunbathing so I left my wife on the beach and went for an explore. The surrounding cliffs are easy to climb and there are trails leading to the other beaches on the headlands. These look absolutely amazing from the clifftops and there are lots of places where you can get a great photo. You can even see Fuerteventura, which is only a short distance to the south.
After a good explore around the headland I returned to Papagayo beach for a picnic lunch, a snooze, and a swim. Papagayo is surrounded by cliffs and is a great place for a swim. Very refreshing! I have a full guide to the Playas de Papagayo here. Apparently, the beaches can get quite busy, I must have picked one of the quieter days as Papagayo didn’t seem that busy to me.
It was warm and sunny today so I ended up staying here all day, reluctantly leaving to go back to Puerto del Carmen in the early evening.
Day 7 Teguise, Caleta de Famara, Puerto Calero
Today is Sunday which means it’s market day in Teguise.
For 6 days a week, Teguise the old capital of Lanzarote is a quiet place. However, on Sunday, thousands of people travel to its market which completely takes over the centre of the town. Dancers and musicians perform in the Plaza Miguel beside the handsome Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe. This beautiful church in the town centre is worth a visit if it’s open.
The market has around 400 stalls selling local products, handicrafts, art, decorations, curiosities, perfume, food and clothing, all at what seems like reasonable prices. In addition, there are lots of food stalls and all the shops and galleries in the town are open.
No need to worry about car parking as the approach roads have lots of available parking. Enterprising locals turn every spare bit of land into a pop-up car park. The closer to the town centre you get the more expensive it is. I parked for 5 Euros and had only a short walk into the town centre. If you don’t have a car there are special buses running to the market from all over the island on a Sunday.
It’s certainly busy and there are a lot of stalls to see and plenty of temptation food-wise. The historic town centre is very attractive and lots of the shops are inside renovated historic buildings.
Caleta de Famara
It’s not far from Teguise down to the coast at Caleta de Famara. We’d had enough of the crowds and shopping so we went for a walk on the magnificent 6 km long beach next to Caleta de Famara. This beach lies at the bottom of the line of cliffs where the Mirador del Rio is situated. These make a very impressive backdrop to the beach. The little village and beach are obviously loved by surfers and wind-surfers and it was fun to watch them as we walked along.
Sadly I hadn’t enough time to walk to the end of the beach at Famara as I had to return the hire car in Puerto del Carmen.
Walk to Puerto Calero from Puerto del Carmen
Hire car returned, I decided to walk to Puerto Calero along the clifftop walk from Puerto del Carmen. This is an easy walk with some nice scenery. Puerto Calero is built around a very attractive Marina.
I couldn’t decide if I wanted to walk back or catch the water taxi. Rather stupidly I hadn’t realised there is a winter and summer timetable, so in winter the service finishes earlier. I arrived in Puerto Calero just as the last taxi boat was leaving. Never mind, it was just as pleasant walking back in the opposite direction!
Day 8 Puerto del Carmen, Home
Today is the last day of the holiday, I always hate leaving a place especially when I’ve had such a great time. After breakfast, all I had time for was a last walk along the promenade, a coffee and then off the airport to return to the UK. It had been an epic holiday.
It’s been great revisiting my first trip to Lanzarote, I really enjoyed my stay and I’m looking forward to when I can return. I managed to see a lot of the Island in a week, but of course, there are still plenty of places left to explore, volcanos to see, walks to go on and beaches to find…..
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